Fanny Gerson

Female 1861 - 1887  (26 years)

Personal Information    |    Notes    |    All    |    PDF

  • Name Fanny Gerson 
    Born 10 Jan 1861  Piltene (Pilten), Courland, Latvia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Female 
    Died 19 Mar 1887  Liepaja (Libau), Courland, Latvia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Aft 19 Mar 1887  Old Jewish North Cemetery, Libau, Courland, Latvia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I4119  Petersen-de Lanskoy
    Last Modified 21 Jan 2014 

    Father Gerschon or Gustav Gerson,   b. 1832, Piltene (Pilten), Courland, Latvia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1891, Pilten (Piltene), Courland, Latvia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 59 years) 
    Mother Gutta or Gutel or Jetchen or Jette Herzenberg,   b. 1844, Pilten (Piltene), Courland, Latvia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1899, of Pilten (Piltene), Courland, Latvia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 55 years) 
    Married Bef 1861  of Pilten (Piltene), Courland, Latvia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F1662  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Leonhard Herzenberg,   b. 12 Jul 1856, near Kuldiga (Goldingen), Courland, Latvia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 15 Jul 1932, Liepaja (Libau), Courland, Latvia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 76 years) 
    Married 24 Jul 1884  Piltene (Pilten), Courland, Latvia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    +1. Robert Herzenberg,   b. 19 Sep 1885, Liepaja (Libau), Courland, Latvia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 24 Oct 1955, Santiago, Chili Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 70 years)
    Last Modified 22 Oct 2015 
    Family ID F1697  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
      1. Courland (Kurzeme in Latvian, Kurland in German) is the historically distinct area of modern day Latvia bounded by the Baltic Sea to the west, Lithuania to the south, and the Dvina River (now Daugava) to the North. Its historic capital was Mitau (now Jelgava). It had ice-free Baltic ports with commercial and strategic importance. At its height Courland was a prosperous and cultured German-speaking Duchy. Courland was a separate Gubernia (Province) of the Russian Empire from 1797-1918. 50-60% of the Jews living in Riga just north of Courland had family roots in Courland. The names of the various towns have changed now that the area is part of Latvia (new-old as of early 1900s):

      2. Fanny is the grandmother of Leonhard Herzenberg, the source noted below.

      3. The following descendancy was developed by and received 1 Aug 2009 from Selwyn Neiman in England , who is a researcher of the Gerson/Gersohn family. The names with an * denote individuals for whom Selwyn has a photo.
      Gutta Gutel Jetchen Herzenberg (1842-1898), md. Gustav Gerson (1840-1891). They had the following children:
      A. Reuven Robert Gerson* (1870-), md. Liebchen Konigsfest* (-1925).
      B. Fanny Gerson (1861-1887), md. Leonhard Herzenberg (1856-1932). They had the following Child:
      a. Robert Herzenberg* (1885-1955), md. Gerda Gerson* (1900-1990). [Gerda is the dau. of Samuel Gerson and Malvine Khan listed below making her and her husband first cousins.] They had the following son:
      i. Leonardo Nardi Herzenberg (1934-), md. Caroline Stuart Littlejohn* (1932-).
      C. Sophie Gerson.
      D. Louis Gerson.
      E. Samuel Gerson, md. Malvine Khan.
      F. Jacov Gerson, md. Rose Konigsfest (-1936).
      G. Edward Gerson, md. Matilda Kallmeyer.
      H. Leopold Gerson, md. Mery Herzenberg. [Genealogy of Mery is unknown.]

      1. 28 Jul 2007 Http:// copyrighted by Leo Herzenberg:
      "An meinen Sohn (To my son) Leonhard Herzenberg von (from) Robert Herzenberg. Memoirs written during the 1940's." Translated during the 1990's by Leonardo (Leonhard) Herzenberg. The entire memoir is quite lengthy and included in its entirety in my notes with Joseph Herzenberg, the original known ancestor, in this database. The following is only the portion dealing with this part of the family:
      "My Parents
      Fanny Gerson, Leonhard Herzenberg, Sara Halpert
      [110] My mother was born on 10 Schmat 5621 (January 1861) in Pilten, my father on 12 Ab 5616 (July 1856) on a farm [gute] near Goldingen. Their great-parents were siblings. They had known each other from youth, and were attracted to each other, probably because both not so much stood out as fell out from their own sibling group. My father came to the Firm Nachman in Libau at age sixteen, where he eagerly joined the western Jewish culture circle [sich ganz dem west judischen kulturkreis anschloss]. The German pastor of Pilten had taken my mother to heart [ins herz geschlossen] and taught her along with his own children. Pilten, once an important city, bishop's see and of political-historical significance, had become a totally insignificant place, in Russian terminology "z... r....," that is, a city that had been declared as having lost city rights [111] and privileges. A single street led through it. When one came there from Windau, at the entrance there was the church, on the right the house of Jacobsohns, left the house of the Gerson grandparents, and further on relatives lived in almost every house. Behind the houses were fruit and vegetable gardens. Where these adjoined the pastures one could comfortably go through gaps in the fence to the mill field. There my mother used to play, and there I also played with other brats [lausbuben] my age when I was in Pilten for the long summer vacation. These brats attended the Pilten yeshiva next to the little old synagogue. The latter was pathetic, and the yeshiva even more so; it stopped operating long before the world war, and is not even mentioned in the Jewish encyclopedia. Through the pastoral education my mother must have gotten estranged from the whole family milieu, so she liked my father best among the few acquaintances. He was no "match" ["partie"], riches neither had, but they hoped that with help of the [112] wealthy, or better off, uncles in Libau, Goldingen, and Moscow they could get through. They became engaged, and married.
      [Engagement Announcement card, Pilten, Libau] [Wedding Invitation Card, from G. Gersohn and frau, 4:00pm, 24 July 1884, Pilten]
      As the guests sat at the wedding meal came the news of the death of Uncle Robert Herzenberg in Mitau. The celebration was not to be disturbed, [113] so the news was kept secret until the end of wedding. It was interpreted as a bad omen, and unfortunately the interpreters were right. The parents moved to Libau, where my father founded the firm Leonhard Herzenberg. The business did not go, the uncles were stingy [kargten] with goods and credit. Soon thereafter I was born, possibly the only pleasure my parents experienced together. And then everything collapsed, the firm failed, my father returned as a clerk to the Nachman Firm, and on 6 Nissan 5647 (19 March 1887) my mother passed away, after suffering for three weeks with enteric typhoid [unterleibtyphus]. Her sister Sophie, who had nursed her during the illness, was infected, and died 11 days later. They were buried in a double grave in the old Jewish North cemetery of Libau, near the north shore of the harbor, next to the building of the linoleoum factory. The grave is almost in the middle of the graveyard. When I visited the cemetery as a child, it was quite full of graves. Then when I
      [114]Hebrew grave inscription]
      [msp 115] visited the graves later, on vacation, an oak tree grew behind the cast iron marker [tafel]. Later, after the first world war, the graveyard was abandoned and hardly protected. The low wall was easily climbed over, and everything useable was plundered. All trees were cut down, many grave markers were of wood, these were also stolen, the fences were broken off to be sold as scrap-iron. When I last visited the graves in Libau in 1930, except for the grave of mother and aunt, only a few were still preserved. The cemetery was flattened by time and weather. I don't know whether a transfer of the remains to the south cemetery occurred.
      When my mother died I was one and a half years old; I have no memory of her. When I was a child one did not speak of her; when I was older and got a second mother it had been agreed that one especially did not speak of my mother. So I know almost nothing of my mother. According to stories and the few photos, she was of short stature, blond, and very beautiful [116]. She was also very clever [klug] and calm in her bearing. I have several letters of hers, that through some kind of shyness I have been unable to read, and a few handicrafts, among them my father's prayer shawl [tales] bag.
      There was great sorrow in the family over the deaths of my mother and aunt Sophie. Aunt Fanny, who later married Nathan Lowenstein, came into the house to care for me and run my widowed father's household. She knew nothing of child rearing or housekeeping, she was herself only a big child. In contrast to that, she vas very pretty, and let the students of the upper grades in our neighborhood court her much and often. Apparently the situation was not good either for me or my father. So it was natural that he would have to marry again. My father went on most of our holiday trips to the relatives, of which I wrote already, [msp 117] to find himself a wife and me a mother. It did not seem to work, because it lasted very long. Perhaps the candidates shied away from taking such a wild spoiled brat as me under their care. Finally my father made a match outside the country. He went to Konigsberg in private [i.Pr.] (without taking me along), got engaged to Sara Halpert, the daughter of Hirsch Halpert, Rabbi [Gabbe] in the polish schul (Synagogue), and the wedding took place on my father's birthday in 1893. I was already almost eight when the new mother, whom I always called Mamachen, came into the house in Libau. The marriage was happy, though not smooth. The percentage of happy unions was not smaller, perhaps larger, among the arranged ones than among the accidental ones (so-called love matches). When I met her at the railway station, Mamachen was a very pretty [bildhubshe], gentle [sanfte] woman, somewhat buxom [vollschlank] wearing a camel colored plush jacket, into which I liked to cuddle. [118] She was usually serious, an outstanding housewife [hausfrau], and cooked and baked wonderfully; your mother is the only one I've met so far who can do it still better in every respect. Mamachen was no longer young, did not make herself younger, but would give her age as ten years younger.
      Unfortunately neither she nor anyone else thought of it that smallpox immunization disappears at around age 30. She was vaccinated as a child, and in Germany smallpox was a rare, almost unknown, illness. But in Russia, and in God's little land of Kurland, it was all too common. Perhaps she got infected in an employment agency for servants, and became seriously ill with smallpox. She lay in the city [stadtlichen] hospital, and I would visit her with my father. She was in mortal danger for a long time; when she came out of it the once beautiful, smooth, white, face was a single red scar. [msp 119] She remained pockmarked the rest of her life. (In Russia pockmarked is called ... (rjaboi); it is such a common sight that a special [urtumlich] word was coined [gepragt] for it. The bodily manifestation of her disease disturbed Mamachen's spirit for the rest of her life. [gab Mamachen ein knacks]. Papachen could surround her with the greatest love, concern, and attention, but she would convince herself that he did not love her, that he cared more for other women; I am sure she was mistaken, but she suffered in spite of it, and Papachen suffered along with her. But they lived quietly and withdrawn. In 1895 uncle Erich was born, at the end of 1896 uncle George. We three grew up, Erich and I left the parental home and moved away [fremde], George stayed home, he was Mamachen's darling. Mamachen fulfilled her step-motherly duty in an exemplary way; before going to Libau she had to swear to her father that she would not touch the orphan [waise], and she never did. [120] I never got a slap from her, though I must have driven her to desperation with my mischief, stubbornness, and back-talk. In later years we understood each other very well, and I would get her annoyed only in jest, for example when I would say I was going to marry a Christian she became speechless just as in my Childhood when I did not want to be subdued.
      For a time she became very fat, she went to Marienbad several times, she visited me in Freiberg, in Kiel and in Hamburg. She complained [krankelte] about various things. In 1922 she was in Kissingen with Papachen. The diagnoses of the physicians did not sound good, and at the end of 1922 she suffered a stroke which robbed her of speech and movement. So she suffered until the 15 Kislev (November 1923). When she died I was in Hamburg, I went to Libau for the funeral, but arrived too late. Uncle Erich was not allowed to return to [121] Latvia at that time, so uncle George and I were there alone to console Papachen. During Mamachen's illness an electric heating pad set the covers on fire. Since she could not call or move, she would have been seriously burned had not cousin Fanny (now in Prescott, AZ) happened to come in the room and torn the burning cover away. During her illness a very strange thing became evident. Some time before she had set a room aside and locked it with keys from which she would not be separated. Then she declared that the business staff were dishonest, that when Papachen and George went to lunch she herself sat in the cashiers place. She used this daily period to cut off pieces of cloth and hoard them in her locked room. Papachen found this collected hoard when he acquired the key during Mamachen's illness. This hoarding did not make sense, because the cut pieces were not useful for either [122] a suit or a dress. Perhaps this all happened in a state of craziness that later culminated in the stroke. To accomplish it she won the complicity of one of the clerks, who took the opportunity to cut coupons of cloth for himself, but with more sense, with which he supplied his girlfriend's [geliebten] shop in New Libau, who ran an active [schwunghaften] business with the stolen goods.
      When I wish to describe to you my father, Leonhard Herzenberg, after whom you are named, I can approach it only with a certain shyness [Scheu]. Your grandfather, who attended only a miserable cheider in the country, worked himself out of nothing up to a very high position. I have studied, and graduated from two universities, but always see how far behind my father I stand. No matter how I approach it, from intelligence, [123] diligence, work strength [arbeitskraft], endurance, or observation gift, [beobachtungsgabe] I can only conclude that had he grown up a generation later, under my circumstances, he would have been a light for humanity in any field he may have chosen. Circumstances offered him a small range of occupations, but he fulfilled their and his possibilities 100%. I still envy his letter writing style, and his being had a dignity [wurde] and charm that I have never seen in another person; may they be granted to you, Nardi. The relatives in Berlin would laugh about Mamachen when she spoke of Papachen: "You must see him behind his desk [ladentisch], he stands there like a prince [furst]." And so it was, and whenever he attended a meeting, or led a conference, he would dominate it, without special schooling, without special speaking gifts, and modesty in appearance and dress. He easily stood out from his 9 siblings [msp 124], and perhaps that is why he did not get along with any of them. As I got to know him [als ich ihn kennen lernte] he was just as bald as he is in all his photos. Then I saw very little of him. On work days we never had a midday meal together, since school lasted until 2:30 and often 3:30, and most evenings he came home late from the store, around 9:00, when we would all be together for a short time.
      Saturday the store was closed, and then we were together more; Papachen was not very devout - only after the death of my grandfather, when he would go to the synagogue daily to say Kadish, and was elected leader of the congregation, did he change; he no longer smoked on Saturday, I was allowed to smoke at home, but he did not like to see it on the street. In later years we sat together longer in the evenings, I with my school work, [125] or reading, Papachen with his bookkeeping, which he always handled himself and was very skilled at. Especially during inventory and year end he would work until late at night. Every Friday evening after dinner we would both go for a walk, in any weather, and then I talked about my school experiences, and he talked about the store. So it went during the school years; then when I went abroad [in die fremde] I would be home only occasionally on vacations, and then, briefly. I would search for every hour I could be together with him, and in later years we were the closest of friends. After I emigrated to Bolivia we would write each other weekly, and thus remained in close contact.
      Soon after his second marriage Papachen with his brother Joseph founded the firm Gebruder Herzenberg. The shop was located in the Knopf building, on the corner of Korn and Julian streets. After a few years the whole [126] block of buildings up to the market burned down. The shop changed locations several times until the Knopf's rebuilding was complete. The shop again moved back to the old corner, and is still there. However, I don't know what it is called now, since the Bolsheviks who took back Latvia after France collapsed in June 1940 "nationalized" the business, that is took it over without compensation, and your uncle George, the owner, was set out on the street.
      The business went well, but it was no true happiness. Papachen did not get along with uncle Joseph, and Mamachen even less so with aunt Frieda, uncle Joseph's wife. Both had equal rights, and when Papachen hired somebody, and uncle Joseph did not like them, the latter would fire them. But they both withstood it. Shortly before the world war uncle Joseph died, and Papachen became sole owner. Then the war came, almost all Jews in Libau left the city and moved to inner Russia, partly to save what one could take along, partly to flee to the capital invested in Russian [127] banks and enterprises, partly due to forced evacuation of Jews from the border areas. Uncle Leopold moved to Riga, but Papachen stayed; the Germans came, and were greeted as liberators from the Russian domination, since they came a day before the forced evacuation of the Jews, and instead of them the Russian administration fled to the north. The Germans soon showed themselves in all their ostentation. Life was difficult during the occupation time. Papachen remained a Russian patriot and invested his earnings in czarist rubles. When these then dropped down to nothing, he invested in Reichsmark, and so he also lost this portion.
      The firm stayed in business, one lived, and not so badly, since the bread and fat ration cards, and the scarcity of meat and fish was not known in Kurland itself during the occupation. [128] But after Latvia became an independent state in 1919, freed of Russians and Germans, Papachen did not become a "noveau riche." During the inflation time he had helped many, but remained the same person who tenaciously fought for his existence. Now he had become the leading personality of the Jewish community. All those who towered over him in education, riches, and position had died or been ruined in Russia. He was always reelected to his position in the community, and one year before his death he was named an honorary freeman (citizen?) [eherenburger]. So, after Mamachen's death he lived in company with uncle George in the beautiful home [wohnung] at Gymnasiumstrasse-4. I was there in November 1918 when Germany surrendered in the first world war, in 1923, after Mamachen's death, in 1925 before emigrating to Bolivia [129], and last in 1930 during my European vacation. Papachen lived quietly and withdrawn; he was not a misanthrope, but was disinclined toward any turbulent gathering. He lived esteemed and loved by the congregation, the city, and with few friends from the old guard of his youth. He lived as he wanted and as he believed was right. Unfortunately he lacked Mamachen's nurture. He had already suffered from a kidney ailment earlier, which kept getting worse over the years. He rarely traveled to the German baths, about once every ten years. Shortly after my last visit in 1930 he became severely ill from kidney stones. Once in a while he had some relief, and then he worked resolutely in the business and the congregation. Finally the crisis came in July 1932. He was transferred to a clinic, but there was no help. He suffered with horrible pain, and succumbed to Uremia on the 12 Tamuz (15 July 1932). With him were uncles Erich and George. [130]
      I was here in Oruro, I had just gotten a letter from him written in good spirits, since an improvement in his condition had occurred, when the telegram with the sad news arrived. I had lost not only my father, but also the best friend on earth, and the most noble person I ever knew. Papachen's funeral in Libau was exceptional, the coffin was kept in the synagogue, and there the memorial orations were given, Now he rests in the south cemetery next to Mamachen, grandmother, and uncle Joseph. The only good thing is that he did not experience the collapse of everything he loved esteemed, the whole Hitler plague and its consequences.
      [Hebrew script notation]
      [marginal notation:] my father's grave inscription[ followed by several lines in Hebrew script]
      [130 - 133: Ehrenburger certificate, newspaper clippings of memorial items from Leonhard's death]

      1. Leonardo Herzenberg

      2. Website of Peter Bruce Herzenberg of London, England (since relocated to South Africa). Website is no longer functioning as of 7 Aug 2007. Copies of much of his data from the website in my possession.